“No bait” rule introduced to protect grey nurse sharks

THE NSW Government has ended decades of indecision and confusion surrounding grey nurse sharks by announcing a “balanced approach” to protect the endangered species.

NSW Fisheries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson today staged a media conference in Sydney to outline the introduction of new measures aimed at protecting the sharks “while continuing to provide recreational fishing and diving opportunities”.

Anglers who use bait will be most affected by the management changes. Bait fishing is set to be banned around known grey nurse shark aggregation areas, however all other types of recreational fishing involving lures or artificial baits will be permitted.

In a briefing with NSW Fisheries scientists this morning, Fisho was told that bait fishing was a significant risk to grey nurse shark populations. There was little evidence that other fishing methods “interacted” with the sharks, the scientists said.

Protection of grey nurses has been a contentious issue in NSW for decades. Green groups and some diving operations have long lobbied for huge no-fishing areas around key grey nurse aggregation areas, such as Fish Rock and Black Rock near South West Rocks and at North and South Solitary Islands at Coff Harbour.

The new rules, which follow an extensive review initiated as part of election pledge made by the Government before the last state election, are a blow for the anti-fishing organisations but should be largely welcomed by anglers.

NSW Shooters & Fishers MP Robert Brown told Fisho after the announcement that anglers would “appreciate” the new management arrangements. He said, however, that there was more work to be done, especially regarding the use of bait fishing methods that could be proven to have minimal impacts on the sharks.

“The minister has got the balance almost right,” Mr Brown said. “However, whilst supporting the thrust of the review, I cannot understand why surface fishing with artificial baits is allowed and yet a prohibition on the use of trolled natural baits (including livebaits) is proposed.”

In other developments following the grey nurse shark review, Bass Point, near Shell Harbour on the NSW South Coast, will be delisted as grey nurse habitat while a small area of reef off Crowdy Head on the north coast will be officially listed as an aggregation site.
The minister said scuba diving regulations would be also be revoked and replaced with a Code of Conduct for diving with grey nurse sharks. A 12-month compliance advisory period will come into effect as the new regulations are phased in.

“An educational and advisory campaign including new boat ramp signage will also be rolled out,” Minister Hodgkinson said.

Stay tuned for more details and reactions to the grey nurse regulations over coming days.

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